Intertitle of the Week
From THE WILD PARTY.
This commemorates the fact that I have only one class left to give (on Billy Wilder, so that’ll be fun) and am basically on my Christmas break for a month, and also celebrates that cute early talkies habit of using occasional intertitles — as Kubrick said, sometimes writing on the screen is just the most direct and effective way to move the story on.
THE WILD PARTY was the first talkie of Paramount Studios, director Dorothy Arzner and star Clara Bow. Bow was terrified of the microphone, which often had to be hidden to allow her to perform, but since Arzner was determined not to be a slave to the sound man, she had invented the microphone boom, so sometimes the mic was hovering in the air above Bow’s head, freaking her out.
A tale of sexy shenanigans and student-teacher romance at a girls’ college, THE WILD PARTY is notable for undressing its cast of lovelies to their lingerie as often as can reasonably be managed, and for turning abruptly dark in the middle, when our four main girls go out dressed as showgirls (having been rejected from a college party for their slutty costumes) and narrowly escape gang rape by loathsome drunks.
Otherwise things are mostly very light (so this interlude is all the more shocking) with Fredric March as the dishy but bad-tempered new lecturer getting chased by all the girls (real-life sex fiend March no doubt enjoyed that) and the pleasure of many many different varieties of early talkie performance. Clara play-acts beautifully, like the former child actor she once was, telegraphing everything to the audience, but doing it with charm. Some of those other girls can’t act in any conventional sense, but there’s such a cornucopia of ways of failing to act on display here, it’s impossible to get bored. Some of these approaches might be budding METHODS, which nobody bothered to pursue and elaborate into Stanislavskian theories, but asides from the pulchritude, they’re the main reason to enjoy THE WILD PARTY, to which I append the sub-title, FIFTEEN WAYS OF TALKING YOU NEVER HEARD BEFORE. Just think of the box-office if they’d used that as a slogan in 1929!